Friday, August 23, 2013

Feature Friday: Amy Christine Parker

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER earned her degree in elementary education at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and then proceeded to try out many different jobs, including collectible doll maker, fondue waitress, and inner-city schoolteacher. It wasn't until she became a mom and began making up bedtime stories for her children that she finally realized what she was meant to do. Now Amy writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Her first novel, GATED, debuts with Random House Children's August 6, 2013. Visit her at amychristineparker.blogspot.com.

Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Amy: 
It really is about reading a lot and writing a lot, but it’s also about learning and understanding story structure. Read novels, but also read books on craft and write and write and write until your hand falls off. Then get some feedback from honest, but helpful readers and then write and write some more. There is no easy, quick fix. Writing is a skill that takes time and effort to cultivate.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Amy: 
I have a lot of favorite books, but a real game changer for me was LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding. I read and reread that book in high school a bunch of times. If I had to pinpoint why it would be because it really was about the unraveling of the humanity in a group of boys and I just found it very chilling.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Gated?

Amy: 
I was watching a TV show about extreme apocalyptic shelters and I was just fascinated by the people building them, about their conviction in the impending apocalypse. It got me thinking about extreme beliefs in general and that led me to cults and well...the story just evolved from there.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Gated?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Amy: 
I didn’t really run into snags exactly. I just hit the inevitable quagmire that is the middle of a draft where all the holes in the plot feel insurmountable. The only way through that for me is to take a lot of long drives and a lot of long showers so that I can work them out (my car and the shower are where all my best thinking happens). It also took chocolate and caffeine on a very regular basis until I got through it!

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Gated is your favorite and why?

Amy: 
I should probably say my main character here, but really, the character I liked delving into was Pioneer, the cult leader. I got into the research I needed to do to see what made him tick big time. He was disturbing and creepy and as far from who  I am as a person as I could get. That’s when the writing becomes a bit like the kind of pretend play I used to love as a kid.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Amy: 
My journey in one word was quick. I wasn’t a lifetime writer, although I have always had a major love affair with books. I only started writing in the summer of 2010. A little over two years later and I had written two manuscripts,the second of which snagged the interest of my agent. Two months after I signed with her, Random House made an offer. This was only 21/2 years after I started writing. I consider myself very, very lucky because I know that this is not the normal journey for most writers. That said, I also threw myself at writing hard core. I lost a lot of sleep to make sure I wrote everyday no matter what else was happening. I let go of anything and everything that took away from my family and my writing, but it was totally worth it. This is my dream and I feel so blessed that I get to live it.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Amy: 
Right this minute I’m working on edits for GATED’s sequel which comes out Fall 2014, but I’ve also got another book I’m drafting...it’s too early to say much about it, but I will say that it’s a creepy thriller—my favorite kind of story.

A.L.:
What makes Gated different than other dystopian novels?  It seems to have an almost “The Village” quality to it, would you agree?

Amy: 
I would completely agree that there are elements of this book that are very similar to “The Village”. There is an isolated community that strives to be a utopia of sorts, but most definitely isn’t. As far as how GATED differs from other dystopians...I’d have to say the biggest difference is that it takes place now, in our time. It isn’t set in a future society at all.

A.L.:
What’s the first story you ever made up for your kids?

Amy: 
Oh wow, I don’t know if I can remember one specific one. I always make something up on the fly and my memory is pea poor! I will say that I tell them stories the way my grandfather used to with me. His favorite story was about two mischevious bears named Jinkie and Junkie who got into all kinds of trouble. The first story I told my girls was probably about them.

A.L.:
What’s your favorite building in Tampa?

Amy: 
I really like the buildings at the University of Tampa. I love their minarets. I actually had my author photo taken there because I like it so much. The building doesn’t really seem like it fits in Florida at all. It feels like it should have a snowy landscape around it, but maybe that’s what I love, the fact that it’s out of place. It makes it more interesting.

The Giveaway:
Amy is giving away a copy of GATED and bookmarks.

Gated:  Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.


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